HipHop is a relatively new thing in mainland China, having made it’s first entry in 1984 by Chinese embassy workers or businessmen and their families bringing videotapes of movies which featured hiphop (movies like BEAT STREET) from America and Europe. The first nightclub that started playing rap/hiphop was Juliana’s in Beijing. Juliana’s was the only club that received monthly records from London of music labels featuring hiphop artists. A few more clubs played hiphop from 1992 but it wasn’t until 2003 that hiphop became more mainstream.
Due to the many years of censorship, which is still very much in effect, it’s been rather hard for hiphop artists to find ground and break through to the more mainstream crowd as hiphop artists usually glorify sex, drugs and alcohol, all regularly banned of Chinese media. If it isn’t for the government pushing them back down, one of the groups not letting themselves be put down is a group called Higher Brothers. Though starting in a large Sichuan based rap collective MaSiWei (马思唯, formerly known as OG Skippy), DZknow (丁震, also known as KnowKnow or simply DZ), Psy.P (杨俊逸), and Melo (谢宇杰) formed the group Higher Brothers in 2016 in Chengdu, China. Having signed under american based labels 88Rising and Empire distribution they released a mixtape called Higher Brothers Mixtape that featured 19 songs, two of which were later released on their debut album Black Cab. Higher brothers are mostly known for their trap style sichuanese mandarin rap mixed with english verses and since they’ve been touring with 88rising in America their name has only become bigger.
The men found their way together when all the members of the collective were living together, Psy p. and Melo already rapping together this way in 2011. MaSiWei joined them in 2013 and finally DZ joined them last. As they were on each others lip in the dorms the rap collective rented MaSi Wei, Psy p. and DZ started making songs together and Melo finally joined the group since he’d already worked with Psy p. After releasing their first mixtape and having it played by a famous DJ, the owner of 88rising quickly contacted them through email, demanding they needed to join his label due to their work ethic and charismatic appearance. Being different from most Chinese hiphop artists, they really loved and respected the sound but gave it their own spin.
Many hiphop artists have spoken about how it’s very hard for caucasian and asian artists to break through in the hiphop scene because usually it’s felt as appropriation and there’s a fine line between mocking it and actual appreciation of the art form. According to many of these artists Higher Brothers is one of the few that truly display the art. This and the internet created a big platform for Higher brothers to break through and set out on multiple American tours, most of them sold out by Asian crowds.
I told the other writers that I was going to step out of my own music scene and browse to find a good group to write about, accidentally stumbling onto Higher Brothers and ending up surprised with how much I enjoyed their music. They’ve been playing on my spotify almost nonstop since I found them. If you need a new artist and want to be surprised check out these fella’s and their awesome songs.